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Biography | Posted: Friday, 27th November | Print Page

John Ratzenberger (American actor) Bio, Facts.

John Ratzenberger
Born name: John Dezso Ratzenberger
Date of Birth: April 6, 1947
Place of Birth: Bridgeport, Connecticut, United States
Alma mater: Sacred Heart University
Occupation: Actor, voice actor, director, producer, writer, entrepreneur
Known for: Cliff Clavin in Cheers, Various Pixar film roles
Television: Cheers, John Ratzenberger's Made in America
Spouse(s): Julie Blichfeldt (m. 2012), Georgia Stiny (m. 1984–2004), Caroline Ratzenberger (m. ?–1983)
Children: Nina Kathrine Ratzenberger, James John Ratzenberger
Website: ratzenberger.com
John Dezso Ratzenberger (born April 6, 1947) is an American actor, voice actor, director, producer, writer and entrepreneur. He is one of the most successful actors of all time in terms of box-office receipts. Ratzenberger is known for portraying Cliff Clavin on the popular comedy series Cheers, for which he earned two Primetime Emmy nominations. He is the only voice actor to appear in every Pixar Animation Studios feature film, including Hamm in the Toy Story franchise, The Abominable Snowman in the Monsters, Inc. franchise, The Underminer in The Incredibles franchise, and Mack in the Cars franchise.

Born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, Ratzenberger began his entertainment career while living in London in the 1970s. He had minor film and television roles throughout the late 70s and early 1980s before creating, and then landing, the role of the know-it-all mailman Cliff Clavin on Cheers (1982–1993), a role he portrayed throughout the show's eleven seasons. His first Pixar role was the voice of Hamm in Toy Story (1995), and he has voiced Pixar characters in films and video games ever since.

From 2004 to 2008 he hosted the TV documentary series Made in America. Outside of acting, he has promoted American entrepreneurship and manufacturing, and campaigned for several Republican candidates.

Early life
Ratzenberger was born on Easter Sunday, April 6, 1947, in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the son of Bertha Veronica Ratzenberger (née Grochowski), who worked for Remington Arms, and Dezso Alexander Ratzenberger, a Texaco truck driver. His father was of Austrian and Hungarian descent, and his mother was of Polish ancestry. He attended St. Ann's School in Bridgeport and Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut. In 1969, Ratzenberger was a tractor operator at the Woodstock Festival. He moved to London in 1971 and stayed there for 10 years.

Career
Ratzenberger was a house framer living in London when he began his career in the performing arts. Through the 1970s, he performed with Ray Hassett as the comedic theatrical duo Sal's Meat Market, which toured across the UK. Peter Richardson and Nigel Planer as The Outer Limits and in The Comic Strip were heavily influenced by Sal's Meat Market. His first role was a patron in The Ritz (1976). Throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s, Ratzenberger appeared in various minor roles in major feature films, including Firefox; A Bridge Too Far, as Lieutenant James Megellas; Superman, as a missile controller; Superman II, as the NASA control man; Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back as Major Derlin; Motel Hell as a drummer; Outland as a doomed mine worker named Tarlow; and Gandhi, playing an American lieutenant (though Ratzenberger's voice was dubbed over by Martin Sheen).

Cheers
Ratzenberger played mail carrier Cliff Clavin on the sitcom Cheers. He had read for the part of Norm Peterson, but after the audition, he sensed that they were not going to give him the part. Sensing an opportunity, he asked if they had written a bar know-it-all, which the producers decided was a great idea. Ratzenberger also came up with the idea for Cliff's trademark white socks, which he wore as a tribute to French comedian Jacques Tati. Cliff became known for his outlandish stories of plausible half-truths, uninteresting trivia, and misinformation, and in general for being a pretentious blowhard. Cliff and Norm, the primary customer characters, became iconic bar buddies. Ratzenberger provided the voice for an animated version of Cliff on The Simpsons sixth-season episode "Fear of Flying". Ratzenberger was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series in 1985 and again in 1986.

When Paramount Television licensed the look of the Cheers bar to the Host International subsidiary of Host Marriott Services for use in airports in the U.S. and New Zealand, the group also created animatronic barflies. They were called "Hank" and "Bob"; Ratzenberger and George Wendt claimed Hank and Bob resembled them, and in January 1993, sued Host for using their likenesses without permission. The case languished in court for eight years before all sides settled in 2001.

Pixar
Ratzenberger has had a voice role in all of Pixar's feature films, ranging from main characters to characters who appear in only one scene. His roles include:

  • Hamm in the Toy Story series (1995, 1999, 2010, 2019)
  • P.T. Flea, the Circus Ring Leader in A Bug's Life (1998)
  • The Abominable Snowman in the Monsters, Inc. series (2001, 2013)
  • The school of Moonfish in Finding Nemo (2003)
  • The Underminer in The Incredibles series (2004, 2018)
  • Mack the truck in the Cars series (2006, 2011, 2017)
  • Mustafa the waiter in Ratatouille (2007)
  • John in WALL-E (2008)
  • Tom the construction worker in Up (2009)
  • Gordon the guard in Brave (2012)
  • Fritz in Inside Out (2015)
  • Earl the Velociraptor in The Good Dinosaur (2015)
  • Bill the crab in Finding Dory (2016)
  • Juan Ortodoncia in Coco (2017)
  • Fenwick the construction worker in Onward (2020)

Ratzenberger's tenure at Pixar was parodied during the end credits of Cars, where his character, Mack, watches car-themed versions of Pixar films (Toy Car Story, Monster Trucks, Inc., and A Bug's Life, the latter of which references the Volkswagen Beetle). Mack notes that all the characters Ratzenberger has played had excellent voice actors until he realizes that they are performed by the same actor, at which point he remarks, "They're just using the same actor over and over," and asks, "What kind of cut-rate production is this?!"

His favorite of his Pixar characters was P.T. Flea, because "in real life, I always get a kick out of those kinds of characters, people who just go into a rage for [no] explicable reason. He was always on edge. His blood pressure was always way over the top, and everything that he did was done in a panicked state. So it was a lot of fun to play him." Although technically not Pixar films, Ratzenberger voiced Harland the jet tug in Disneytoon Studios' Planes (2013) and a mustached plane named Brodi in its sequel, Planes: Fire & Rescue (2014), both of which are set in Pixar's Cars franchise. Additionally, Ratzenberger will reprise his role as the Abominable Snowman in the Disney+-exclusive series Monsters at Work, which is set after the events of Monsters, Inc.

Reality show appearances

During season six of Last Comic Standing, Ratzenberger was a talent scout with his former Cheers co-star George Wendt.

On March 2, 2007, he replaced Vincent Pastore (who had quit after one week of training) on the fourth season of the American version of Dancing with the Stars. He was partnered with professional ballroom dancer Edyta Sliwinska, who had been Pastore's partner; the two were the sixth couple to be eliminated from the show.

On December 3, 2009, Ratzenberger appeared on an episode of American Chopper to help promote awareness of the Iraq Star Foundation.

On June 26, 2011, Ratzenberger was asked by NASCAR to give the shouting command for the 2011 Toyota Save-Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway. Ratzenberger accepted and gave the "Gentlemen, start your engines" command.

On April 23, 2015, Ratzenberger appeared as a guest judge on the 14th season of Hell's Kitchen for an alcohol challenge, in nod to his role on Cheers.

Additional voice, TV, and film work

  • Appeared in the sitcom Sister, Sister, in season 3, episodes 9 and 10
  • Guest-starred as Walter Brewster in an episode of Magnum, P.I. in 1984
  • Appeared in the sitcom Sabrina the Teenage Witch as Bob or Santa Claus (1997)
  • Hosted the Travel Channel TV series John Ratzenberger's Made in America, about things made in the USA (2003–2008)
  • Guest-starred in four episodes of the first season of John Ritter's sitcom 8 Simple Rules as Paul Hennessy's overly friendly neighbor Fred Doyle
  • Hosts the Wildcard section in the PC version of the board game Trivial Pursuit
  • Also appeared on That '70s Show as Glen, a man stuck in an awful marriage with his high-school sweetheart whose negative example gives Eric second thoughts about marrying Donna
  • Played Thomas Foy in the TV movie The Pennsylvania Miners' Story
  • As Shelly Cole star in The Village Barbershop (2008), written and directed by Chris Ford
  • An appearance in Bill Nye the Science Guy
  • Provided the voice of Rigger in the animated series Captain Planet and the Planeteers
  • Made an appearance on British show Live from Studio Five (February 17, 2010).
  • Appeared in television commercials for the Pitney Bowes personal post office, ended every commercial saying "Hey, I look good in red!"
    Appeared in commercials for Quality Hotels and Zaxby's restaurant chain (2010)
  • Plays Mike the Angel in What If..., a Pure Flix Entertainment/Jenkins Entertainment movie release in 2010, also starring Kevin Sorbo, Kristy Swanson, and Debby Ryan
  • Reprised his role of Cliff Clavin in an episode of Frasier and - along with his Cheers partner, George Wendt - an episode of Wings called "The Story of Joe"
  • Hosted the documentary Industrial Tsunami, intended to wake Americans up to the shortage of skilled workers threatening the existence of American companies and entire industries
  • Appeared in the final episode of Secret Army entitled "The Execution" as a Canadian officer who is bribed by Standartenfuhrer Kessler's mistress Madeleine Duclos to spring Kessler from the POW camp where he is incarcerated
  • Starred in "A House Divided," the 28th episode of the first season of Melissa & Joey as Arnie the neighbor
  • Voiced the bathhouse's assistant manager, Aniyaku, in the English dub of Spirited Away
  • Made a cameo in the DisneyToon Studios animation Planes (2013) playing Harland the pushback vehicle
  • Made commercials for Ontario's The Beer Store with his Cheers partner, George Wendt
  • Appeared in Drop Dead Diva as Kim Kaswell's estranged father
  • Will reprise the role of the Abominable Snowman in the TV series Monsters at Work.

Other work
Ratzenberger developed a packaging-alternatives product made from biodegradable and non-toxic recycled paper as a safe alternative to foam peanuts and plastic bubble wrap. This product, SizzlePak, was manufactured by his company Eco-Pak Industries, which he co-founded in 1989. In 1992 he sold Eco-Pack to Ranpak Corp.

Ratzenberger co-authored We've Got it Made in America: A Common Man's Salute to an Uncommon Country (ISBN 1-931722-84-6), published in 2006.

He also co-founded the Nuts, Bolts and Thingamajigs Foundation, dedicated to raising awareness among young people about skilled trades and engineering disciplines.

In 2010, Ratzenberger became affiliated with and now represents the Center for America (formerly the Foundation for Fair Civil Justice) to further develop his work and increase awareness about the skilled worker shortage facing the United States and the changes needed to positively impact and increase the number of skilled workers. He joined as a board member in 2010. CFA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to "educate, motivate, and empower the American people to understand they have the greatest stake in removing obstacles to a fair civil justice system, innovation, entrepreneurism, and job creation." CFA creates multi-media educational programs, publications, and website features that reach millions of Americans through radio, television, and the internet."

In 2016, Ratzenberger launched thegiftbox.com, an e-commerce website that allows customers to subscribe to a variety of monthly boxes.

In April 2020, he announced that he and a company he co-founded, American Made Advertising, will offer free advertising and marketing help to selected companies who have been hurt by the economic downturn as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Personal life
Ratzenberger married his first wife Georgia Stiny on September 9, 1984; they remained married for nineteen years until their divorce in 2004. Together they have two children: James John (born 1987) and Nina Kathrine (born 1989).

After dating for nearly four years, Ratzenberger married Julie Blichfeldt on November 6, 2012. Both Ratzenberger and Blichfeldt are described as "avid outdoors enthusiasts, philanthropists, and activists".

Political views
Ratzenberger is a Republican. During the 2008 presidential race, Ratzenberger campaigned for John McCain, appearing with former Cheers co-star Kelsey Grammer at several Republican party events. He considered running for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut in 2012.

In response to the 2012 Aurora, Colorado shooting, he said, "Hollywood has to, at some point, admit that what they produce does affect the minds of people.... If you just want to shock 'em... society will pay the price for that at some point." Ratzenberger endorsed Mitt Romney in 2012. He appeared on Your World with Neil Cavuto to support Donald Trump's candidacy during the 2016 presidential race, shortly after Trump was declared the presumptive Republican nominee.

In response to concerns over problems with mail-in voting, Ratzenberger expressed his support for the United States Postal Service (USPS). Having played the mailman Cliff on Cheers, Ratzenberger channeled the character in encouraging Americans to provide monetary support to the USPS.

John Ratzenberger Quotes

Find people who share your values, and you'll conquer the world together.
On my visits back home, if they saw that I was getting a big head, they'd let me know right away.
Sure, the comedians who swear or use scatological humor can get laughs, but they're uncomfortable laughs.
A farce, or slapstick humor, does well universally.
Diabetes affects my family. One of my kids is affected by it.
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Categories: 1947 births,20th-century American male actors,21st-century American male actors,American expatriates in the United Kingdom,American male film actors,American male television actors,American male voice actors,American male video game actors,American people of Austrian descent,American people of Hungarian descent,American people of Polish descent,Connecticut Republicans,Male actors from Bridgeport, Connecticut,Actors of Hungarian descent,Participants in American reality television series,Sacred Heart University alumni

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